After a pet passes away, it’s not uncommon for people to wonder if or when they should get another pet. Just like everyone experiences grief differently, the time to get a new pet is a decision only you can make. There are a few things to consider that might help guide you as to whether you are ready for a new pet now, or if you should wait.

How did your last pet pass? If your past pet was slowly declining in health you may feel that you’ve had time to come to terms with their death and be ready for a new pet right away. Many families will adopt a puppy while they still have their senior dog. The idea is that the adult dog teaches the puppy their manners and ease the transition for their children. If your pet’s death was sudden and unexpected it may take longer to process your feelings and experience your grief.

When thinking about getting a new pet, some people may feel a pang of guilt. A new pet is not a replacement. It’s normal to feel like you are replacing your last cat or dog, but you can never replace that piece of your heart your former pet held. But you can add to it with a new furry family member. You will have a different kind of bond and relationship with every pet that enters your life.

I found a dog that looks just like my last one, it must be meant to be!”

Sure, maybe. Maybe not. For some people, seeing a pet that looks identical to their last one may make them think that their personality will be identical as well and, in many cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each pet is an individual even if they are the same breed, sex or age as your last pet. It would be unfair to them to expect them to behave exactly like your last one. Only you can decide if getting a very similar looking pet is the right choice. Some people may find getting a pet that is a different breed or color than their last one helps them to accept that pet a little easier.

I miss the daily routine my old pet and I had. But I don’t think I can commit to a new pet yet.”

It is a strange feeling to walk into a home without being greeted by our pets. Maybe you took your dog on a run each evening and now you find yourself running solo. If you aren’t ready to make a lifelong commitment to a new pet try starting small by visiting and spending time with pets at a shelter. It helps them socialize and have a break and can help move you past your grief. If you aren’t sure you can fully accept a new pet in your life, look into fostering through a local no-kill shelter. It’s a win-win. You get the benefit of having a pet to play with and care for. They get to be in a home rather than a kennel environment.

Talk to other family members. If your spouse or children had a close bond with your last pet, make sure to talk to them before bringing home a new family pet. Bringing one home before everyone is ready may cause them to feel resentment towards the new cat or dog. Talk about what bringing home a new pet will mean, what responsibilities come with it and include them in the pet selection process. If you frequently travel and have family or friends watch your pets get their feedback. Let them know you are considering adding another furry family member.

My current pet has always had other animals around. I have to get another animal for them.”

Animals grieve and have their own transition period any time there are changes in the dynamics of the household. If your last pet was the boss and your current pet can finally soak in all the attention they may be reluctant to share it if a new fur baby shows up. Older pets may find it difficult to deal with an excited and active puppy or kitten at home. If your current pet has ever been aggressive take it very slow. Do several meet-and-greets and slow introductions to help them accept a new pet.

There is a lot to consider anytime you decide to add a pet to your family. Remember that you will likely have this pet for many years. Take your time in deciding if this is the right pet, and the right time for a new pet, before bringing them home.